I’m in Rio, but I’ve left you with a few reviews.
1) Michael Bloomfield Box Set
Remember when I recommended There Was a Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream by the jazz pianist with the PhD in American studies Ben Sidran—(I'll bet he doesn't support BDS)—well I want to recommend it again, a) because it's great, and b) because it tells the story of the musical friendship between Michael Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg. This story was retold in the documentary I reviewed last summer, Born in Chicago, which I hope has since seen wider release.
Why am I saying all this again?
Because SONY Legacy has released a beautiful box set devoted to Bloomfield’s career. Perhaps you’ve never heard of Mike Bloomfield. You’re not alone. Here are a few quotes:
“The first time I saw Michael play guitar…it literally changed my life enough for me to say, ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’” – Carlos Santana
“Best guitar player I ever heard.” – Bob Dylan
“The future of rock guitar was in ‘East-West.’ At one point or another you’re hearing what would become the Grateful Dead, Santana, the Allman Brothers, Crazy Horse, Television and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.” – Dave Alvin
"Mike Bloomfield is music on two legs." – Eric Clapton
The box is titled “From His Head To His Heart To His Hands. It’s a 3CD/1DVD set anthology produced and curated by Al Kooper (who played with Mike Bloomfield on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited sessions in 1965 and the Super Session album in 1968). It’s a nearly perfect artifact, containing everything anyone ever heard from Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Electric Flag, tracks with Muddy Waters and Janis Joplin, Highway 61 band outtakes, and much much more. Among them: Bloomfield's first demos for John Hammond Sr. in 1964 and his final public performance, and a track from the 1980 Bob Dylan concert in San Francisco where Dylan introduces him in what would be one of his final appearances anywhere.
Directed by Bob Sarles, Sweet Blues: A Film about Michael Bloomfield combines vintage audio interviews and live performance footage of Bloomfield with newly lensed reflections on the artist from the guitarist's friends and fellow musicians. It’s a heartbreaking story but a profoundly important one for the history of both rock and the blues and I, for one, am grateful to Kooper and company for telling it in so complete and sensitive a fashion. You also get a 40-page booklet with lots of photos extensive liner notes by musician and lifelong Bloomfield fan Michael Simmons.